I didn’t much care for The Signal, Remedy’s first stab at Alan Wake’s post-game content. Certain faults were forgivable; recycled assets, for example, were an expected trade off for fresh content with similar production value. Others slips were not. Filtering Alan through identical environments under the guise of an inconsequential addition to the (delightfully ambiguous) narrative was disappointing, and the return of the atmosphere-eviscerating Verizon crap was awful. Progress was made by adding new elements to Alan’s means of interacting with his world, such as the impressive light-shooting-pipe area, but, overall, The Signal’s construction felt half hearted. The Writer, thankfully, comes off a bit better.
Though you wouldn’t know it from the first few minutes. The Writer begins much like The Signal; Alan, still trapped in his own head, remains a slave to the worst parts of his malicious imagination. A facsimile of Barry returns to set you on your way, and, just when you think you’re on another rehashed nightmare through Bright Falls, Remedy takes Alan off the grid. Locations and assets return, but they’re completely repurposed into new environments with different challenges. An increasingly twisted version of Alan’s reality serves as the rationale behind Bright Fall’s divergence, but, in terms of gameplay, it’s a fantastic way to create new from old. The Signal exemplified a poor way to go about doing this, but, with its slightly different, smarter approach, The Writer succeeds at reaching the same goal.
Alterations throughout the environments are consistent. A familiar house (Cauldron Lake Lodge?) is still the same place, but it’s been transformed into a rotating hamster wheel that Alan must overcome and escape. The concert set returns as well, only with Alan stuck on the outside shooting off fireworks and battling waves of Taken. As the game presses on reality is completely disconnected in favor of paths floating in mid air and tumbling tornados. It’s a welcomed change, with only a bland segment that pumps Alan through some sewer pipes coming off as lazily constructed. From a gameplay standpoint it’s still a well connected series of challenge rooms, but the illusion is more carefully presented this time around.
The basics of combat are still in play; Alan is constantly haunted by a relentless army of Taken, and he’s still required to shine a light to “break” them before he can use a firearm. The Signal introduced floating words in the environment that Alan can literally execute. “Tools” would grant Alan batteries and Ammo while “path” created a path in midair. This approach returns in The Writer with a few wildly impressive segments that boast more exciting ideas. Without going into specifics, the final accent toward a lighthouse and a section involving a steep hill are simply awesome to play and a spectacle to watch. At the very moment you’re absolutely certain you’re going to be overwhelmed, Remedy gives you a few great tools to even the odds. Both sequences grant a supreme feeling of badassery over a few brief instances, and easily made for the best parts of The Writer.
Perhaps the most important part of The Writer is that it provides a sense of resolution. I won’t be so foolish as to spoil any part of it but, unlike the The Signal, The Writer succeeds in adding a touch of coherence to an otherwise convoluted narrative. There are still plenty of pieces missing from the puzzle, but when it’s over you at least have a better idea of the bigger picture. The original narrative didn’t actually need much else, I enjoyed intrigue behind its ambiguity, but players looking for more of an answer, or where at least where Alan is heading, should be quite content when the credits roll.